This past week, the congregation I serve lost three beloved saints within days of each other. Pat Muyskens, Jo Leslie, and Dave Van Englenhoven. All of them, marked as God’s own in the waters of baptism. All of them, so dear to our church family and wider community. Our congregation is grieving.
Amid the tinsel and bright lights of a culture that wants to rush to Christmas Joy, the season of Advent graces us with time and space to resist hurry, to sit in the dark, and to get present to our heartache and yearning for Christ’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Advent shepherds us, ever so gently, into a space where we can sing our pain and pray our tears.
For my post today, I want to share with you an Advent poem written by a parishioner and dear friend, Jeff Barker, for our grieving congregation. We are dwelling in Isaiah 40 for the season of Advent, and so you will hear intonations of the prophet and his song of hope. Feel free to insert the names of those whom you’ve loved and lost. Let this poem be a prayer, joining the whole creation in its waiting, with deep groans, for the birth of a new world. A new world where, at long last, all things shall finally be made well.
By Jeff Barker
The storms of winter have not yet begun,
but the icy cold of sorrow and loss
set in this past week.
Pat, then Jo, and then Dave:
three saints of our village gone,
falling suddenly together,
leaving a tall drift of grief.
“Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song.”
We are grateful to have known them each:
Pat, and Jo, and Dave.
But for some of us, it seems too soon
to raise a song.
The tears are still on our cheeks.
We know the world is God’s own,
and at his allowance, the wheat and tares
grow side by side—joy and sorrow,
side by side.
There have been so many—
so many loved ones,
loved by us but lost to us
this long, cold season.
Where are they?
Are they awaiting the resurrection,
waiting for the moment when their savior
gives his angels charge at last,
and there is a shout and the sound of a trumpet
when the dead in Christ shall rise?
Or are they absent from their bodies
but already present with the Lord?
Must they wait longer, or
is their waiting complete?
Yes, their waiting is complete,
They are free from sorrow, free from sin . . .
free from the beep of the monitoring machine,
free from not knowing if it is night or day,
free from the weighty breath,
free from pain.
“Even so, Lord, quickly come,
Bring Thy final harvest home.”
We are tired.
We are tired of waiting.
We want to see you, Jesus.
We wait for you.
We wait, we wait, we wait.
And we are told that those who wait
for the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.